Modi and Gota. India and Sri Lanka … and A Pilgrimage

Rajeewa Jayaweera, in Island, 10 February 2020, where the title runs “

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again sung his favorite rhapsody reserved for Sri Lankan leaders, during the joint press meet with visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa,

Modi stated, “It is necessary that the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution is carried out, furthering the reconciliation process. I am confident the government will realize expectations of Tamil people for equality, justice, peace within a united Sri Lanka.”

Charity begins at home. The Indian leader should first think of the plight of the Kashmir; he recently stripped off the autonomous status enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir. Today, its people live in Union Territories, whereas the Northern Tamils may vote and elect a Provincial Council.

The Indian Prime Minister never fails to lecture Sri Lankan leaders on this sensitive subject in public. Our leaders, acting more like nodding ponies, remain silent.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the exception. During his visit to India last November, he stated, the 13th Amendment contains elements not implementable due to non-acceptability to the majority community. His forthrightness is laudable.

Modi has responded with the customary Indian no brainer to the poaching issue raised by Rajapaksa. He has stressed the need for a humanitarian approach in dealing with it as it is an issue that affects the livelihood of fishermen in both Sri Lanka and India.

It was the same hogwash India has dished out during the last five years. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu fishermen continue to rape our northern waters. Sri Lanka continues to apprehend the offending fishermen and release them and their boats periodically. Any self-respecting nation would have released the fishermen and sunk the boats.

India needs to understand that its ‘humanitarian’ issue is for Sri Lanka a humanitarian and ‘humiliating’ issue. In a manner of speaking, it is a repetition of the 1987 episode. This time around, it is not the violation of our airspace by IAF transporters and fighter jets but our territorial waters by Tamil Nadu fishermen.

Much was said on security matters relating to Sri Lanka, India, and the Indian Ocean region. Many countries, including India and the USA, have begun to take an unusual interest in security issues relating to Sri Lanka. Offers are many to unload discarded naval craft as gifts or at discounted rates. Hardly a month passes by without foreign naval ships visiting our shores. There are offers to train our forces. If only these offers had been forthcoming in the 1980s and 1990s, Sri Lanka would have been a different country today.

The Indian Prime Minister deserves full marks for addressing the joint press meet in Hindi language, one of India’s official languages. Unfortunately, both Rajapaksa brothers, despite being more at home in the Sinhala language, one of the two official languages of this country, for some inexplicable reason, opted to speak in English during their visits to India. I state this not due to any misplaced nationalistic reasons but to place matters on an even keel. Indian media would have found ways and means of understanding Sinhala, in the same manner, Sri Lankan journalists managed to cope with Modi’s address in Hindi.

The visit was Prime Minister Rajapaksa’s first official visit overseas since assuming office in November 2019. Official news releases indicated, the delegation comprised 10 members including the Prime Minister, two cabinet ministers, Ministerial Secretaries, and one senior advisor. However, Facebook posts claim, the group consisted of 39 members, including media and security personnel.

Having arrived in Delhi on Friday, February 8, Rajapaksa first met Indian Foreign Minister Dr. Jaishankar on Saturday morning. He then attended the formal welcome ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, followed by visits to Rajgat and laying of a wreath on Mahatma Gandhi Samadhi. Thereafter, the two leaders met their respective delegations, followed by the joint press meet and a luncheon hosted by the Indian Prime Minister. Rajapaksa paid a courtesy call on the Indian President in the evening.

The delegation was due to spend Sunday visiting Varanasi, and Monday visiting Bodh Gaya before arriving in Tirupati on Tuesday early morning, all places of worship. Their return flight was at mid-day on Tuesday.

One hears of state, official, working, and private visits. For want of a better word, this trip will amount to an official pilgrimage.

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